Fallen peace officers honored

COLUMBIANA – As the sound of bagpipes filled the banquet hall of the Dutch Village Inn Friday tears streamed down the faces of many listening quietly, remembering law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.

Glen Duncan, a retired Perry Township and Salem officer, played the tunes, closing out with “Amazing Grace,” as Lt. Donn Beeson read the names of deceased officers across the nation. Unfortunately, more names are likely to be added to that list as crimes continue to be committed.

Ohio Supreme Court Justice William M. O’Neill said one law enforcement officer is killed in the United States every 57 hours, and Ohio ranks fifth in the nation for officers killed in the line of duty.

“Police officers everywhere have a difficult and dangerous job … there is no such thing as a routine traffic stop,” he said during the Peace Officer Memorial Service organized by the Fraternal Order of Police Quaker Lodge No. 88.

O’Neill remembers he was running as a congressional candidate in Twinsburg in 2008 when Officer Joshua Miktarian was shot to death by a man he pulled over for a traffic stop.

“The assailant in that case had a concealed carry weapon which he was carrying with a permit,” he said, referring to Ashford Thompson, who still had one handcuff on when he was arrested by Miktarian’s fellow officers.

Columbiana County officers who have been killed on duty since 1823 include two Salem patrolmen, one shot while responding to a train incident in 1908, and one who crashed his motorcycle into a ditch in 1936. A Columbiana County Sheriff’s Deputy was killed when his vehicle was struck by another vehicle during a traffic stop in 1930.

Patrolmen Charles Miller and Edward Piller and Chief Deputy James F. Elliott’s names were added to the six Ohio law enforcement officers honored on the Ohio Fallen Officers’ Memorial wall in central Ohio earlier this month. The memorial features more than 700 names.

“We must let law enforcement officers know we as a community feel safe for what they do,” O’Neill said.

Retired Columbiana County Sheriff’s Deputy Kenny Biacco recognized the family of Patrolman Michael Hartzell during the ceremony. Hartzell was a member of the Youngstown Police Department and killed while working 12 years ago. He was only 26.

“Thank you all for remembering Mike. It’s an honor for us to attend this ceremony,” his father, Howard Hartzell, said.

Tears were also shed for the late Wellsville Police Chief Joe Scarabino, who passed away recently due to illness.

Biacco said he felt it was appropriate to honor the man he was close to over the years.

“Joe was very good with children, he would go to schools and read with them. He was very good with senior citizens as well,” he said.

Scarabino was an active police officer for roughly 35 years before passing. His funeral was held a week ago, and drew such a crowd it could not be contained to a funeral home.

“He did a good job. I felt that Joe treated people very equally,” Biacco said.

Scarabino’s wife Cindy also attended the event.

The ceremony was originally slated to feature Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor of the Supreme Court of Ohio as featured speaker but she could not attend due to illness and personally requested O’Neill attend in her place.

“O’Connor asked me to send you her best regards. She said, ‘There is an event that is indeed in my heart,’ and asked me to attend,'” he said. “She has an enormous warm spot in her heart for all law enforcement officers.”

O’Neill became the 156th justice to the Supreme Court in January of last year. Before that he served with the 11th District Court of Appeals, and before that was assistant attorney general for Ohio. He is also a retired Lt. Col. in the U.S. Army and was awarded a bronze star for his duty in the Vietnam War. He is also a registered nurse and has prior newspaper and television reporting experience.

“You seek out danger so you can eliminate it for all of us,” he said of the safety forces.

At the close of the event Biacco presented the Hartzell family with a donation from the Lodge and county sheriff’s office for the Michael Hartzell Scholarship Fund, which awards scholarships to children of police officers in the Mahoning Valley who opt to attend Youngstown State University.

Other funds are raised through a charity golf outing each year which is scheduled for July 27 at Knoll Run Golf Course this year.